Wnt10b transgenic mice had half as much adipose tissue and produced half the normal amount of leptin, they had none of the metabolic consequences we expected," MacDougald says. "In fact, the insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance of transgenic mice on a high-fat diet was better than that of normal mice on a low-fat diet. We don't know why, but additional research should provide some answers."
Currently, researchers in MacDougald's lab are studying the effect of Wnt proteins on mice with genetically induced obesity. They also plan to explore the effect of Wnt signaling on the development of osteoblasts, the bone-forming cells in marrow.
But don't look for Wnt10b diet pills to be on the market any time soon, cautions Longo and MacDougald.
"Pharmaceutical companies are interested in the potential therapeutic role of Wnt genes in decreasing fatty tissue, but finding the right drug to selectively target this pathway without complications will be a considerable challenge," MacDougald says. "The goal of our research is to learn how fat cell development is regulated, but this work may also improve our understanding of obesity and its complications."
"We've seen the potent effect of Wnt10b on fat in mice, but we don't know if it would work the same way in humans," Longo adds. "And, if the results we see in the skin of the transgenic mice are any indication, I'd say we have to tread carefully. I think we'd all like to be thicker-skinned, but only in the figurative sense."
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